Kip Migdalias

Bare All

I only saw you once, Papou, but I still recall the village,
The little Greek hamlet, the trees—cypress—after which
Both you and I were named, the small cemetery. Would you
Bare all, to the bone, reveal your mystery? All around me was
Brown and green—the trees and some grass—and, then,
The gray tombstones. Was one of these yours? No, my father said.

As though stepping with bare feet on broken glass,
We approached the mausoleum—a shanty home
For the deceased, all crumbling brown, no green,
No life. What had I expected? My father opened
The drawer to his father, and, within, we found his bones.

The two shared a love of drinking, a love of dancing,
Both summoned wives from other rooms to fetch a glass of water.

The habit stops here. And, Papou, if you were like my father,
Would I have enjoyed knowing you? Would my feelings
For you be one minute loving, the next mired in spite?

The Way My Father Made Her

Irons singed clothes, steam kettles screamed
From stoves, hot spaghetti water scalded,
And furnaces drove dry heat past our faces.
My mother’s face reddened, cracked,
Fissures spread. She was sick of it.

When Mom got angry one time, I remember,
She chased me, nuking the microwave,
Charring the toaster-oven, and frying the fridge,
And, entering the dining room, she ignited
The woodstove. I hid under a table, terrified.
Mother, steeping in this for all these years,
How did you remain so sweet,
Raise four children in such heat?

If Hestia Had Lived

When Thanatos overtook my grandfather,
The god of death left behind three sons.
They delegated power between them. My father
Moved to America, and he brought with him Hades—
Youngest brother, greedy and too often deceptive—
Whom he trusted less than Poseidon. The god of the sea,
The middle brother, my father stationed in the motherland,
To watch over his lands in Greece.

What existed between my father and his brothers
When they were young gods tumbling around in the dirt—
Fighting, kicking, pushing? And what would have happened
If my dad’s sister hadn’t drowned in a well before he was born?
Would she, like Hestia, have provided warmth to her male siblings,
A sense of tenderness? Instead, she is the ash
In the wake of consuming flame.

Winter Fire
  What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
—Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”

Scraping out the ashes from
The woodstove, where parades
Of brambles, twigs, sticks
And split hunks of log have
Fallen countless times to ash.

I scrape the gray into a small
Mountain within, then replenish
The parade—brown begets gray
As I ignite the nightly flame.

And will you, father, notice
That I too light such fires?
Perhaps the only difference
Lies in the products:
Mine, warmth; yours, pain.

Slice of the Mediterranean

I wonder what life will be when you are gone,
Your stint in the merchant navy and travels
Round the world: you, a modern Odysseus.
Traveling to America you chanced upon my mother,
And you left the motherland for a new life, a new career
At Ford Electronics, started a side business: Big T
Construction. Once here, the percussion of life
Kicked in: first child, then another, and another,
Until these sisters welcomed brother—fourth child—
And new job followed new job. A host of family
Settled round the world: most in Kavala, Greece;
Some in Australia; others in Canada; a brother
In the states, his family; and, of course,
Greek friends from the church community.

Once settled, you raised four children to dance
In the church troop, round the year at tri-state area
Festivals, to which you always came to watch,
And you raised my sister Niki best to speak
The language of your culture, raised Olga best
To break her back to earn what she needs,
Raised Maria to stand up for what she believes,
And you raised me to concentrate on my work,
And to succeed.

Why do you wish to turn homeward from us,
As Odysseus did, toward the motherland,
Drunk on it? In your retirement, will you
Return to Greece? And will you dine on lotus
Or throw back ouzo to induce the spins, deny
The memories being purged from your system?

Copyright © 2013 Kip Migdalias

Kip Migdalias attended college at West Chester University. While there, he served as a member of the university’s English Club, even acting as its literary magazine editor during his junior year. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education, he taught for a year and a half at the North Penn School District. During this time, he taught poetry, among other subjects. On several occasions, he has held or assisted with student poetry readings, and for a year he served as the teacher contact for the school’s student-run literary magazine. Currently, he is in his second year of graduate school at West Chester University working toward a Master’s of English with a concentration in creative writing. As a requirement of graduating, he is completing his Master’s thesis in poetry on his bicultural upbringing as a Grecian-American. He has gathered the poems for this submission from that very volume.